Nature and Justiciability of Directive Principles of State Policy

Introduction 

Directive Principles of State Policy (also referred as DPSP in short) are enumerated in Part IV of the Constitution from Articles 36 to 51. The concept of Directive Principles is not indigenous to India and was borrowed from Article 45 of the Irish Constitution (it had borrowed from the Spanish Constitution) by the framers of the Indian Constitution in 1937. These principles have been described as “novel features” by the father of our Constitution “Dr. B. R. Ambedkar”. They constitute the philosophy of the Constitution along with the Fundamental Rights.  India can turn from police state to “welfare state” (economic and social democracy and not just achieving political democracy) if they implement the Directive Principles with a high sense of moral duty. Article 36 of Part IV defines the term “State” as the one, who has to keep in mind all the DPSP before formulating any policy or law for the country. These are fundamental in the governance of the country and it is the duty of the State to apply these principles in making laws. The definition of “State” in the part IV will be the same as that of Part III, unless the context otherwise requires a change in it. These are the guidelines to be followed by the government while formulating policies and a citizen of the country cannot force the government to follow these, i.e. not enforceable by the courts for their violation (they are moral obligations on the State).

History / Background  

The Drafting Committee accepted the recommendation of Sir B.N. Rau, the Constitutional advisor to the Constituent Assembly who recommended that the rights of an individual should be divided into two categories- justiciable and non- justiciable. Hence, Fundamental Rights which are justiciable in nature are incorporated in Part III of the Constitution and Directive Principles which possess non- justiciable nature, are incorporated in Part – IV of the Constitution.

There were several reasons for the framers of the Constitution to make Directive Principles non- justiciable and legally non-enforceable –

  • Unavailability of sufficient financial resources to implement them.
  • The diverse nature of India and the backwardness of the country.
  • India was just freed from the clutches of the British rule and would be crushed under the burden until it was free to decide the time, place and the mode of fulfilling them.

Henceforth, the founding fathers of the Constitution believed more in an awakened public opinion rather than in court as the ultimate sanction for the fulfillment of these principles.

Landmark, Recent Judgements

The justiciable nature of the Fundamental Rights and non- justiciable nature of the Directive Principles have led to the conflict between the two since the commencement of the Constitution.

In the Madras High Court v. Champakam Dorairajan[1], the Supreme Court ruled that in any case of conflict between Fundamental Rights and Directive Principles, the Fundamental Rights would prevail. It held that the Directive Principles have to confirm to and run as subsidiary to the Fundamental Rights. But the Fundamental Rights could be amended by the Parliament by enacting Constitutional amendment acts.

I.C. Golaknath & Ors. v. State of Punjab & Anr[2]. , it was held by the Apex Court that the Parliament cannot take away or abridge any of the Fundamental Rights, which are ‘sacrosanct’ in nature. The Fundamental Rights cannot be amended for the implementation of the Directive Principles.

The Parliament passed 24th and 25th Amendment Act, in response to the aforesaid judgement. The 24th Amendment Act declared that the parliament has the power to abridge or take away any of the fundamental rights by enacting Constitutional amendment acts. The 25th Amendment Act inserted new Article 31 C which contains that –

  • No law which seek to implement socialistic Directive Principles specified in Article 39(b) and (c) shall be void on the ground that it is in contravention to the Fundamental Rights contained in Article 14 ( Equality before law and equal protection of law), Article19 (rights related to freedom) or Article 31 (right to property).
  • No law containing a declaration for giving effect to such policy shall be questioned in any court on the ground that it does not give effect to such policy.  

 In Keshavananda Bharati v. State of Kerala[3] the Supreme Court held that the second provision of Article 31 C was unconstitutional and invalid on the ground that judicial review is the basic feature of the Constitution and hence cannot be taken away.

Minerva Mills v. Union of India[4]the Apex Court held that Indian Constitution is found on the bedrock of the balance between fundamental rights and Directive Principles. To give absolute primacy to one over another is to disturb the harmony of the constitution. This harmony and balance between the two is an essential feature of the basic structure of the constitution. The goal set out by the Directive Principles has to be achieved without the abrogation of the means provided by the fundamental rights.

The present position is that Fundamental rights enjoy supremacy of the Directive Principles. The Parliament can amend the fundamental rights for implementing the Directive Principles so long as the amendment does not damage or destroy the basic structure of the constitution.

Opinions of famous personality –

L.M. Singhvi (eminent jurist nd diplomat) –   the directives are the life giving provisions of the Constitution. They constitute the stuff of the Constitution and its philosophy of social justice.

M.C. Chagla (former chief justice of India) –  if all these principles are fully carried out, our country would indeed be a heaven on earth. India would then not be only democracy in the political sense but also a welfare state looking after the welfare of its citizens.

Dr. B.R. Ambedkar (father of Indian Constitution)- Directive Principles have  great value because they lay down the goal of Indian polity is ‘economic democracy’ as distinguished from ‘political democracy’.

Granville Austin – Directive Principles are aimed at furthering the goals of social revolution or to foster this revolution by establishing the conditions necessary for the achievements.

Sir B.N. Rau (constitutional advisor to the constituent assembly)- Directive Principles are intended as ‘moral percepts for the authorities of the State’. They have at least an educative value.

M.C.Setalvad (former Attorney General of India) – Directive Principles although confer no legal rights and create n legal remedies, are significant and useful as –

– They are like an “Instrument of Instructions” or general recommendations addressed to all authorities in the Indian Union

– They have served as useful beacon light to the courts.

– They form the dominating background to all state action, legislative or executive and also guide to the courts in some respects.

– They amplify the Preamble, which solemnly resolves to secure to all citizens of India justice, liberty, equality and fraternity.

T.T. Krishnamachari – he crticised the Directive Principles as “veritable dustbin of sentiments”.

N Srivasan – Directive Principles are neither properly classified nor logically arranged.

K Santhanam – Directive Principles lead to a constitutional conflict between the centre and the state, between the president and the prime minister and between the governor and the chief minister.

Conclusion

Directive Principles facilitate stability and continuity in domestic and foreign policies in political, economic and social spheres in spite of changes in party in power. They serve as a crucial test for the performance of the government. They are supplementary to fundamental rights and are intended to fill in the vacuum in part III by providing for social and economic rights.

Since 1950 successive governments at the Centre and the State have made several laws and formulated policies for the implementation of Directive Principles. The planning Commission (replaced by NITI ( National Institute for Transforming India)) was established in 1950 to take up the development of the country in the planned manner. The five- year plans aimed at securing social justice by eliminating inequalities of income, status and opportunities. Almost all states have passed land reform measures to bring changes and abolish the practices such as Zamindari, imposing land ceilings etc.

To protect the interest of labour several legislations such a Minimum Wages Act (1948), Mines Act (1952), Child labour prohibition and regulating Act(1986), factories act(1948), Workmen Compensation Act (1923) are implemented. The child labour was banned in 2006. In order to protect the interest of female workers Maternity Benefit Act (1961) and the Equal Remuneration Act (1976) have been passed.

The legal services authorities Act (1987) has established a nationwide network to provide free legal aid service to the indigent group of people and lok adalat are organised for promoting equal justice.

To safeguard and conserve wildlife and forest the wildlife protection Act, 1972 and Forest Conservation Act (1980) have been enacted. Agriculture has been modernized by providing improved agricultural inputs, seeds, fertilizers and irrigation facilities. Following the Gandhian principles, three- tier panchayati raj system has been introduced by the 73rd constitutional Amendment Act.

10% reservation to economically weaker sections in admission to educational institutions and in civil posts has been provided by the central government in 2019.

Inspite of the above steps by the Central and state governments, the Directive Principles have not been implemented effectively because of inadequate financial resources, unfavourabe socio-economic conditions, population explosion, strained relations between the centre and the state.

Suggestions and Recommendations – 

Directive Principles have been criticized for their non-justiciable character. Critics opine that directives are not arranged in logical manner and leads to constitutional conflicts.

Directive Principles must be made secular and free of morals that they impose on citizens. They must incorporate the sentiments held by the nation as a whole and not those held by only a particular class.

References

Dr. J.N. Pandey, “Constitutional Law of India” (Central Law Agency 57th Edition 2020) 35

M. Laxmikanth, Indian Polity (Mc Graw Hill Education (India) Private Limted 6th Edition) 120


[1] (AIR 1951 SC 226)

[2] (1967 AIR 1643)

[3] 1974 4 SCC 225

[4] AIR 1980 SC 1789

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